Kakamega farmers strike gold with fast-growing groundnuts
By GRACE WEKESA
| May 6th 2014 | 3 min read
By GRACE WEKESA
KAKAMEGA COUNTY: Residents of Khwisero Constituency in Kakamega County are embracing groundnut farming as sugarcane growing loses its appeal.
The community has resorted to growing groundnuts due to poor yields from sugarcane, high costs of inputs and low pay received from millers.
Groundnuts, on the other hand, are high yielding, disease resistant, mature after six months and certified seeds are widely available.
FLOW OF CASH
Mr Titus Obundu, the chairman of the Shirombe Self-help Group, which grows groundnuts, said of the crop: “We began the project two years ago, and each day our membership is growing. We never thought groundnuts would give us a steady flow of cash and be embraced by the community.”
The group has more than 1,500 members. Those looking to join them are required to pay a Sh500 registration fee.
Mr Obundu says they opted for groundnuts because the crop matures after a short time and does not require much labour.
The group plants the red valencia variety of groundnuts. Their idea, however, was to get into value addition.
Therefore, after harvesting, the nuts are dried, roasted, ground and processed through a machine to make peanut butter. Salt is the only ingredient added, and a nearby factory does the packaging.
“Our farms are small and in most cases our members lease land from the community to increase their harvest and enable us produce enough peanut butter for sale,” Obundu said.
They grind 100 kilos of nuts a day for peanut butter.
“A hundred kilos is still low for us, but this is attributed to the lack of enough land to grow groundnuts on. We hope to grind 1,000 kilos a day to meet the market demand, which keeps growing daily,” said Ms Agnes Amanya, the treasurer of the group.
Shirombe makes between Sh6,000 and Sh8,000 on a good day, with the higher range achieved during exhibitions, on market days and at the end of the month.
They package the peanut butter in 800 and 400-gramme containers, which retail at Sh250 and Sh150, respectively.
The Kenya Agriculture Productivity Programme (Kapap) is spearheading the project and has provided training for farmers on new farming technologies and value addition.
Mr James Libaako, the Kapap co-ordinator for Butere, said farmers in the Mumias/Butere zones have taken up groundnut farming with a lot of zeal.
“Many farmers in the area have now resorted to growing groundnuts because of their immense benefits, such as resistance to disease and quick maturity. We are working closely with them to offer advice and ensure they follow the right channels from planting to selling.”
The crop has also provided livestock feed.
“The feed from groundnuts increases milk and egg production,” Ms Fridah Shikuku, a member of the Shirombe group, insists.
“As a result, demand for groundnut leaves for feeding livestock has increased in the last six months, and we are trying hard not to disappoint our clients.”
She said the group’s biggest challenge at the moment is getting Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) certification.
She said the lack of the Kebs label on peanut butter has limited them to making sales within Kakamega County and in parts of Bungoma.
“The lack of Kebs certification is holding back our expansion as we can only sell the product in this region, despite getting opportunities to take it to other counties. However, we are still engaging Kebs on this,” she said.
The group is hoping the Kakamega County government will support their project, which they say has the potential to increase the county’s income, eradicate poverty and create employment opportunities for the youth.
A lack of packaging materials and storage and transport facilities are among other challenges the group faces.
They are forced to bring in packaging containers through middlemen in Nairobi as they cannot access the materials locally.
“Our funds are limited and the little we get is used to buy materials and invest in the project. We have to get our packaging material from the city, which at times delays our getting the product to the market,” said Obundu.
The group plans to form a co-operative society to help them save and access loans to expand their business and empower members.
They also intend to start leasing land from neighbouring towns to increase the acreage under groundnuts.
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